#NPRreads: Two Stories About Mental Health And A Profile Of Pitcher Bronson Arroyo

Oct 23, 2015
Originally published on October 23, 2015 5:06 pm

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. On Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four items.

From Lauren Hodges, newsdesk editor:

There's been a recent call to attention in the way we refer to victims of human trafficking. In an attempt to stay neutral and businesslike in discussing these stories (of which there are tens of thousands in our country alone), we call them "workers," or in the case of human sex trafficking, "sex workers" or "prostitutes."

But advocates want to turn that language into something a bit more conscious. For example, they say there is no such thing as an "underage prostitute." They are child rape victims. Under statutory rape laws, persons under the age of 18 are not legally capable of giving consent. And if a person is being forced into labor or to have sex for money (which is taken and controlled by her captors), it's not exactly fair to call her a "worker." There's typically another word for that.

And effects of human trafficking across the globe aren't your everyday work grievances. This week, a new study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience emerged in London, providing substantial evidence and examples of residual suffering in trafficking victims in the U.K. The study, which appears in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, shows that those who have endured the horrors of human trafficking are in dire need of mental health services. But so far, those needs have been largely underreported.

"Research on the mental health needs of trafficked people is extremely limited and only based on evidence from those in contact with shelter services," says Dr. Sian Oram, a lecturer in Women's Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, in the press release. "Our study shows that mental health services are caring for trafficked people with a range of diagnoses, including PTSD, depression and schizophrenia."

The study is one of many recent news items and discussions supporting advocates' message that victims of human trafficking are not "workers," but survivors of trauma.

From Vesta Partovi, social media intern:

I always find articles about mental health compelling because I'm continually trying to understand it better. I like reading firsthand (especially female) accounts of mental illness because they are personal and powerful and help people realize they're not alone. They also humanize the experience for those who are not privy to it, helping to de-fuel stigma. The author, Maria Isabel Wendler, writes about her mother's mental health issues and her own bipolar depression diagnosis:

"I realised then that she had stolen my childhood from me, just as her mother had taken hers. It wasn't intentional. She was trying to fix her own trauma. But in the process of fixing herself, she had broken me and my siblings.

"I swore I wouldn't be like her — and it dawned on me just how much I was.

"It was there in everything from my hands to my mood swings."

Wendler's story particularly stood out because it mentioned two emotional states — sad and sadder. I've known about bipolar disorder from my friends who have it and from following the mental health community on tumblr. But I had never heard of someone who fluctuates only between sad and sadder (or dysthymia and depression). From what I understand, most cases of bipolar disorder involve some sort of manic phase — where mood is highly elevated. This made me realize that perhaps these disorders are much less clear-cut than they may seem. For example, is there a difference between someone who suffers from major depressive episodes and someone with bipolar disorder, who cycles between euthymia and depression? Do we even know the answer? Whom can I ask and where do I find out?

Maria puts it well:

"Of course all of this would be much easier if we didn't feel a need to shroud it in secrecy. It's always difficult to talk about mental illness — especially our own. But, in recent years, more and more people have been speaking out. I just hope that one day we'll be able to talk about going to the psychiatrist in the same way we talk about seeing the dentist. If we can get our cavities fixed, surely we can also try to heal ourselves."

From Joe Ruiz, digital editor:

With the World Series upon us, this was a great profile of MLB pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Baseball fans everywhere knew who he was — and if he pitched for your team, you got to learn a bit more about him — but many fans probably overlooked him, mainly because of his lack of overpowering pitches. He'll never be a Hall of Fame pitcher, but his longevity and above-average career have made him a rich man.

What I didn't know about him — and honestly, he randomly popped in my head earlier this week while I was thinking about the baseball playoffs — was how hard he worked to get to the big leagues, and how he came to be the man he is today. Reporting for Deadspin, Tom Ley provides us a look at not just the pitcher but a man who doesn't want to leave anything for tomorrow.

" 'I've had a better feel than most guys that have played this game. I've been able to manipulate the ball more consistently than them,' Arroyo says. Whenever he talks about feel, he reflexively snaps his right arm into a throwing position, his fingers holding an invisible ball in a four-seam grip, his muscle memory rolling his shoulder towards an unseen home plate. He projects the image of a man who has a heightened sense of control over his body when he does this, and it's easy to imagine him shooting a three-pointer or serving a tennis ball with the same ease he throws a curveball."

But like any great profile, the article delves deeper than Arroyo's baseball prowess. If you take the time to read, you'll learn a lot about him and his outlook on life. You also can't help but contemplate your own mortality when you read something like this:

"Lately, Arroyo's thoughts of the future have stretched far beyond his place in the game. His year spent away from the mound has afforded him a chance to spend more time with friends and family, and to think about what he still hopes to get out of those relationships. He's come to realize just how long it's been since he's seen so many of his best friends, and so he's spent much of the last year flying them out to Arizona just to hang out for a few days. When he makes his daily 45-minute drive from Glendale back home to Paradise Valley, he picks out a friend he hasn't talked to in a while and calls them up, just to say hi and chat for a bit. 'I want to hear people, man,' he says. 'I just want to spend time with people before we all drop dead of some weird cancer, you know?'"

Whatever happens to Arroyo will be interesting for baseball fans, but as he says, regardless of his baseball future, there's still so much left for him.

From Wright Bryan, senior editor for engagement:

The Internet is so random sometimes. I can't remember who pointed me to this piece. But it is fascinating. It's Eric Schmidt of Google fame being interviewed in a Stanford computer science class by LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman.

It'd be notable enough just for the people involved and the classroom context. The real appeal here, though, is Schmidt's openness about his relationship with Larry Page and Sergey Brin. This relationship is at the heart of how Google evolved into a corporation with outsize influence across the globe. In the interview, Schmidt portrays himself alternately as the sharp, grown-up executive, Page and Brin's willing servant and, occasionally, their dupe. As we all know, this triumvirate steered Google into the top ranks of business.

" 'My role was to manage the chaos. You need to have someone to run fast and have a good product sense. That was Larry and Sergey. My job was to organize the world around them.'

" 'Larry told me, 'We don't need you now, but we'll need you in the future,' and I think they were right."

Walking into Google, Schmidt was an industry veteran, and he had the scars to prove it. His experience informed his skepticism that Google was as good as it looked from the outside:

" 'My first concern with Google was that everything was a sham. They were using Quickbooks, and I was sure there were errors. So I made them show me the bank account, and they had money. We were making money from ads, but none from Europe. So I told Omid [Kordestani, the "business founder" of Google], go to Europe and don't come back until you set up a sales office. Today, those markets represent 60% of our revenue.' "

While Schmidt worked to bring discipline to the company, Page and Brin always kept him on his toes with new initiatives and products:

" 'Larry and Sergey would play tricks on me. I'd say we're not going to take on Microsoft. We're not going to do a browser or OS. So they hired someone to improve the performance of Firefox. 6 months later, they showed me Chrome. Those a—holes. I knew they were going around me.'

" 'So I told them, we can't do an operating system. So they bought Android and told me it was just for smartphones.'

" 'Maybe the lesson is that I'm just wrong all the time. But the secret is that you have to have judgment on when these things scale.' "

By this account, Google appears to be a tale of total chaos driven by total brilliance. At the center, a CEO trying to milk it for all its worth. The written account of this interview was posted by Chris Yeh on Medium. There is also a video of the discussion if you prefer to watch it.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.